Bloomberg’s other anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, started to lose support when some felt that the goal was more about all guns and not necessarily illegal guns. Nobody should be in favor of illegal guns being in circulation. It goes against common sense. If Bloomberg can grow this organization and keep it on message, he can be relevant in helping get illegal firearms off the streets.
Everytown will also aim to cut into the lobbying muscle of the National Rifle Association. Again, if the focus remains on what is already illegal, Bloomberg’s opponents will have trouble pushing back on his agenda. But if he calls out select politicians who are popular in their own states, he runs the risk of losing the center of the political spectrum.
He made this mistake the last time, and Congress wound up not making any significant changes following the Newtown massacre. Our laws offer one of two things (sometimes both): they protect liberties and/or they tell us what we value.
For those who feel that tightening the effort to collect illegal guns will not work, it still matters symbolically. We needed to do something following Newtown as a way to show effort and symbolism. It was wrong not to do that.
Illegal firearms and guns in the hands of people with mental illnesses should be a no-brainer. If this is Bloomberg’s goal, he can be successful. If he goes the route of vilifying licensed firearm owners, he will only reinforce the constituency he already has.
Gun legislation comes with a lot of emotion. Some of that comes from people who are wary of the government, some comes from people who are wary of those who want to own guns. It is a case of fear fighting fear; paranoia vs. paranoia.
President Ronald Reagan signed the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 that offered protections for gun owners, but it also banned machine guns from being sold to individuals. Nobody can call Reagan an anti-gun politician, yet he saw the pragmatism in the bill.
Bloomberg sees the NRA as not allowing that kind of pragmatism into gun legislation. Maybe he is right, but the challenge for Bloomberg and company is to keep the message clear – unlicensed and illegal firearms are the issue right now.
From a political science standpoint, the creation of Everytown is interesting because it is a test of how influential a former mayor of America’s largest city can be. The mayor of New York City is a local post, but it is really a national position as well. Nationally, Bloomberg was a respected politician, but his position on this issue was not widely embraced.
This is a test to see if a three-term former mayor can be politically relevant. Mayor Giuliani, despite being “America’s Mayor” did not really have national momentum, and mayor Ed Koch had no real interest outside of New York (or even Manhattan for that matter) in his retirement.
But Bloomberg has time and money, and if he is going to make a difference in every part of America, he is going to have to be successful with Everytown.